Himachal Forests Have A Bounty Of The Prized Morel Mushroom
SHIMLA, (IANS) – Himachal Pradesh’s highly prized foraged fungi crop known worldwide for its meaty texture, robust flavor, and its potential to ward off free radicals that cause aging, a large proportion of which are shipped to Europe, is bountiful this year in nature owing to post-winter precipitation.
Guchhi, or morchella esculent, a mushroom variety that grows naturally in snowy slopes, is reaching markets across north Indian towns. A kg of dried guchhi is selling from Rs 8,000 to Rs 12,000 in the wholesale domestic market, depending upon the quality and size.
Almost 90 percent of the produce in the hill state is sent to Europe. Britain, Germany, Italy, France, and the Netherlands offer good prices.
The morels sell for upwards of $500 per kilogram in the international market.
A freshly harvested one kg of such is reduced to 80 – 100 grams after drying under natural conditions. In Himachal, many Nepalese, who are otherwise working in Himachal orchards, are involved in collecting this fungus from the wild.
Its harvesting begins in May and lasts till June-end.
Trade insiders said that the demand for morchella from European consumers is rising due to growing interest in vegan food and animal protein substitute.
In Himachal Pradesh, guchhis are grown in dense deodar forests mainly in the interiors of Shimla, Chamba, Kullu, and Mandi districts. Since its trade is not regulated by the government, there is no estimation of its overall production.
But traders say China is posing a tough challenge in the international market owing to its large-scale commercial production and comparatively lower price.
“Everyone can’t be a harvester. One should be mentally and physically strong to harvest guchhis in the challenging terrain. You require sharp eyesight to spot them beneath logs of decaying wood, leaves, or humus soil,” said a collector Brij Khemta. “This is why the young men and women, mostly from a community, hunt for them collectively.”